It can already buy food, pay for laundry, and get you into buildings throughout campus. But the CUID may soon provide another service to cardholders.
The Citibank stripe on the back of students' Columbia Cards may be usable as soon as next fall, allowing cardholders to use their IDs to get cash from ATMs, according to Executive Director of Business Services Bob Moskovitz.
Moskovitz and Director of Contracts Services Chris Simoneau are starting a pilot program to test the idea of activating the Citibank strip on CUID cards for use at ATMs.
Last Friday, Business Services sent letters to 300 random undergraduate and graduate student Citibank account holders asking for participation in the test program, which will deactivate participants' Citibank ATM cards in favor of their CUIDs. After four to six weeks, the organizers will receive feedback surveys with comments and complaints about the program.
They will assess any problems that come up, such as alternatives if the card is lost or what may cause the strip to be deactivated and the quickest way to fix it, in order to make the service as convenient as possible.
"We want to experience all the problems, to have someone tell us what works and what doesn't, before we offer this service to the whole community," Moskovitz said.
The goal, according to Moskovitz, is to provide more convenient ATM service by turning student IDs into a "one-card."
A five-year contract between Citibank and the University was established in 1998 "to provide students with very low-cost checking service and on-campus no-fee ATMs," said Moskovitz. Currently, approximately 7,300 students have Citibank accounts.
While it is common for campuses and banks to be affiliated with one another, the idea of a "one-card" is unique. Columbia's will be the only campus to have an association of this sort with Citibank.
Economics Professor Marc Henry, who does not currently have an account at Citibank, said he found the idea convenient and would even consider switching to Citibank for convenience if the ID stripe started to work.
Catherine Mogilner, CC'02, also responded positively.
"It's convenient. You don't have to carry as many cards in your wallet," she said.
Not everybody agreed that an increased Citibank presence was a good idea.
"I don't like the idea of Citibank attached to Columbia. It is too much of an outside corporate influence," said Anthony Burke, a GS architecture student.
Another student, Juno Ferreira GS'03, said that the affiliation could be seen as "a big corporation like Citibank commercializing something as simple as an ID card."
According to the contract signed by Columbia and Citibank, the bank was chosen because it charges students the least money while offering the greatest number of services. Citibank offers Columbia students free ATM use, unlimited check-writing, and a three-dollar monthly fee that is waived with direct deposit of a paycheck or an average monthly balance of $1500.
Citibank does not charge Columbia students its usual one-dollar fee for using other banks' ATMs. Last year students made approximately 110,000 of these transactions, according to Simoneau and Moskovitz, costing the bank $110,000. Citibank also does not charge a fee to non-Citibank customers who use ATMs in Lerner Hall. Citibank rents the space in Lerner for $25,000 to $30,000 a year.
This is not the University's first attempt to activate the CUID Citibank strip. In the fall of 1998, thirty students had the Citibank strip on their IDs activated to assess the potential benefits of the "one-card" idea, but administrators found that the group was not large enough to gain sufficient information. Other projects took priority, such as installing banking services in Lerner and installing ATMs around campus.
Last October, Moskovitz and Simoneau began work on the current program after delays stemming from the complex technology needed to transfer encoded information from the Citibank card stripe to an ID card stripe.
Based on the feedback from this pilot program, Moskovitz and Simoneau hope to offer the service to all students and faculty by next fall. Within the next several weeks, when the pilot program begins, a brochure will be available to answer all questions about the card and the services provided.
The CUID, however, will not function as a Mastercard or Visa credit card like Citibank debit cards do. Moskovitz and Simoneau said that while a checking account is a virtual necessity for students, credit is a more individualized option. Hence, the University feels less need to be a credit provider.
A related goal of Business Services is to establish a Columbia-Citibank homepage that will provide financial services information and online banking. Columbia has also asked Citibank to hold information sessions about credit.
Not everyone found the added use of his or her CUID card beneficial.
"ID cards already do too many things. If you lose it, you're screwed in so many ways," said Sara Libi Robinson, BC '01.